Downfall

Percopotomus submission #8 Non-prompt, written 2/29/2012: based on a character from a play I wrote

Charlie MacGregor couldn’t explain exactly how or when things had changed. It wasn’t as if he just woke up one day with the glaring realization that he was ruining his life. If only it had been that easy. Instead, the end had come gradually over a number of years, beginning when he been forced out of his job of 25 years. He had been AMCO’s top sales representative for eight straight years only to be informed that the company was taking its sales in a new, more computer driven direction. They would have never actually come out and said they thought he was too old to learn new work skills, but Charlie knew that’s what they meant, and it depressed him.  The crisp suits he wore everyday with pleats so sharp he could have cut himself on them went into the closet, only to be dragged out for the occasional Sunday morning. The briefcase was emptied and shoved under the bed and his business cards were discarded. The only holdover from Charlie’s previous life was the alcohol. Having grown used to power lunches and marathon sales pitch dinners, he couldn’t not drink. He didn’t make excuses for his drinking but he carried on with it as if his life hadn’t changed at all. Only it had. It had changed, slowly at first, but as time passed, the changes came faster and faster until he was overwhelmed. His wife hadn’t left him, but their marriage was on shaky ground, and his children refused to come home from  college during the summer. It was all too much to deal with, but just when the thought that he couldn’t take much more occurred to him, it got worse. His wife died of an aortic aneurysm at the age of 56 and after that he didn’t really care much what happened, so the drinking continued. Three fingers of Scotch with breakfast, followed by a midmorning beer or glass of wine, then another drink or two with lunch. Making it through to dinner without a drink was too difficult, so he spent the afternoon with his friends Jack and Jose.  It wasn’t until things got strange that Charlie finally forced himself to quit.  The memory lapses weren’t much at first. Forgetting where he put his car keys or his glasses were just annoying wastes of time. It wasn’t until he found himself forgetting people’s names and faces that he started to worry. He stopped drinking but put off going to the doctors though, out of fear of what they would say. When he forgot how to get home from the grocery store, there was no way around it. He needed help. His son, Steve, had asked his best friend, Jerry to look out for him, and Jerry had stealthily agreed. Charlie had never known he was being watched until the day Jerry asked him to accompany him to the doctor. Jerry had been undergoing chemotherapy and Charlie assumed that Jerry needed someone to be there with him during his treatment. Instead, he was taken to the neurological unit, where a doctor ran many tests, the results of which were a diagnosis of early onset Alzheimer’s. A filthy word, Alzheimer’s, almost a swear. He asked the doctors if his drinking caused it, but they were non-committal. Alzheimer’s is a breakdown in brain proteins, they explained, much more likely to be caused by genetics than anything else. Still, Charlie couldn’t help but think he’d brought it on himself. Still, he took comfort in one thing. At least if he was going to become a drooling vegetable, he wouldn’t remember his downfall.

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